Sunday, March 26, 2017

Easy Fixes for Some Nutrition Mistakes

Are you making some nutrition mistakes?  Even those who are health conscious and pride themselves on eating well can make some of the mistakes noted below.  Or, you may be interested in eating healthier and want to avoid some nutrition mistakes.   An interesting article in the Washington Post, 10 Nutrition Mistakes Even Really Healthy People Make covered a number of “mistakes” you may not be aware of.  What are some of these nutrition mistakes?   

     1.      Flax seeds – Flax seeds are the latest trend and healthy so you add some whole flax seeds to your cereal, your smoothie.  Flax seeds are super healthy, loaded with heart healthy omega-3 fats plus fiber and some antioxidants.  But to get the benefit of flax seeds, don’t eat them whole as they may go through you pretty much undigested.  Instead, buy ground flax seeds and sprinkle some on your morning oatmeal, add to your smoothie.   
     2.     Almond Milk – so many people are switching to almond milk.  They may be lactose intolerant and Almond milk doesn’t have lactose.  They may like the lower calories of Almond Milk.  But shake it before you drink it.  Why?  The added calcium and vitamin D may sink to the bottom.  To be sure you are getting the minerals and vitamins in each glass, shake before drinking.    
     3.    Don’t skip the fruit – so many people seem to cut back on fresh fruit or 100% juice to avoid “added” sugar.  My daughter was eating a banana and someone asked her, “Why are you eating a banana?  Don’t you know they are high in sugar?”  NO, no and no.  Bananas don’t have “added” sugar.  What we want to cut back on are foods that have sugar added to them, like the sugar added to sodas.  But fruit is healthy.  It has some natural sugar, fructose, but also fiber, vitamins, minerals and they oh so important, antioxidants.  The article notes a soda can provide 16 teaspoons of sugar.  To get this much sugar eating bananas, you would have to eat 6 bananas.  
     4.     Fat Free Salad Dressing or Skipping Salad Dressing – many dieters either buy the Fat-Free Salad Dressing or skip putting salad dressing on their salad.  While salad dressing can be high in fat and thus calories (such as 130 calories in 2 T. of Thousand Island Dressing), cutting out all the fat is not a healthy choice.  Why?  Because so many vitamins in the salad need some fat to be absorbed.  These fat-soluble vitamins, A, E and K and many antioxidants in those salad greens need some fat for absorption.  So add some oil or fat by using a Reduced fat salad dressing, a vinegar/oil dressing and or add some fat by adding nuts or avocado to your salad bowl.  
     5.    Sports Drinks – so many people drink these thinking they are good for your health.  One student in my class gave sports drinks to her four-year-old while the child watched TV.  First, sports drinks are for sports.  They are designed to replace the fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat especially during sports like soccer, or running a marathon.  But going on a walk after dinner or a casual stroll through your neighborhood doesn’t require refueling with a sports drink.  Rather rehydrate with plain water.    
    6.    Low-Fat doesn’t mean Low Sugar – I often make egg salad in the summer months.  To try to cut back on the fat calories I asked my husband to buy low-calorie mayonnaise.  I made egg salad sandwiches and he asked me why I put sugar in the egg salad.  I was puzzled as I never put sugar in the egg salad.  I took a bite of my egg salad sandwich and it tasted sweet.  Ruined really.  I looked at the low-calorie mayonnaise and they did take some fat out but they added sugar.  Healthier?  Not really and it made for a terrible egg salad sandwich.  So, low-fat doesn’t always mean it is healthier.  Read the label and the ingredients to see what is being added to the reduced-calorie food.

To read all 10 of the nutrition mistakes, go to the article at:  10 Nutrition Mistakes Even Really Healthy People Make.  You may find other nutrition mistakes you might be making.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Kitchen Makeover for Healthy Eating

There are so many articles on the internet about updating your kitchen to make it more modern and add more conveniences.  But how can you give your kitchen a makeover for healthier eating?  Since March is National Nutrition Month, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has many articles on ways we can all eat healthier this month.  So what are the Academy’s recommendations for a kitchen makeover? (Changes are adapted from the article.)

  1. Make a list when going grocery shopping     First – look at what you have on hand.  Then put on your list the fruits, vegetables and other healthy items you and your family need for the week.
  2. Change it Up – Forgo the white bread for some whole wheat bread.  Or buy some whole grain bagel thins such as Thomas’ 100% Whole Wheat Bagel Thins – great for packed lunches.  These bagel thins are 100% whole wheat, have no high fructose corn syrup and provide 5 grams of fiber.  Instead of whole milk, reach for the 2% or 1% milk.  Forgo the toaster strudel options for some whole grain cereal to start your day.
  3.  Calculate how much fruit – if each person in the family is to have 2 pieces of fruit a day, buy 8 pieces of fruit for each day.  Buy a bag of apples, a bag of oranges, to ensure you have enough fruit for each day of the week.  If you are buying “juice” boxes for the kids, make sure you are buying real juice, 100% juice and not flavored sugar water.  Juicy Juice is a good choice.  All their juices are 100% juice, have no added sugar and come in a variety of flavors.
  4. Canned foods can be good foods      So many of my students ask if canned fruits and vegetables are OK to eat.  Yes, they can be just as nutritious.  For fruit, looked for fruit packed in its own juice and not a sugary syrup.  
  5.  Put your healthy food on display – always have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter.  We have a beautiful silver bowl filled with bananas and other fresh fruit.  So easy to grab a piece of fruit for a snack.  Keep some cut up veggies on a shelf in the refrigerator for kids to grab for a quick snack of veggies with some low fat Ranch dressing.
So look around your kitchen whether you live alone, an empty nester or a family.  How can you makeover your kitchen for healthier eating?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

What to Eat for a Longer Life

The health headlines this week read:  To Live Longer, Cut Out the Bacon and Soda; Eat More Nuts.   Researchers studied what foods are linked to a longer life and what foods are linked to diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  They found a diet high in processed foods like bacon and high sugar foods like soda shorten your life and a diet high in healthy food choices like nuts leads to a longer life.  The study published in JAMA reviewed diets of 7000,000 Americans who died from heart disease, strokes or diabetes.  They analyzed what they ate or did not eat.  A great research article to focus on during March, National Nutrition Month.

What foods/nutrients to eat to live longer by lessening your chances of a heart attack, stroke or diabetes?
Good” Foods – Eat more of these for a longer life:

  • Nuts – As noted in a number of my blogs, a handful of nuts a day is a Dr. Oz recommendation and a good habit to adapt.  Nuts do have fat in them, but the heart healthy Omega-3 fats.
  • Fruits and Vegetables – USDA recommends 5 A Day or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.  So important not only for vitamins, minerals and fiber but also all the antioxidants fruits and veggies provide.
  • Seafood – another great source of the healthy Omega-3 fats.  Foods like salmon are rich in Omega-3’s.
  • Whole Grains – ditch the white bread and choose some whole grain bread, whole grain crackers like Triscuits, or whole grain cereals like any General Mills cereal.

“Bad” Foods – eat less of these foods:

  • Processed meat – bacon, hot dogs, bologna.  Medical Daily called bacon “Comfort Food” and who doesn’t enjoy some bacon or hot dogs?  However, these foods are a double whammy because they not only have saturated fats, but are also higher in sodium.  
  • Red meat – hamburgers, steak
  • Added sugar drinks – sodas. Data now shows more Americans are buying bottled water than sugared sodas and that is a good trend.
  • Salty foods – hard to avoid salt in our diets, especially if we eat out as so many restaurant and Fast Food items are high in salt.  Start reading labels for “sodium” content of the foods you buy and look up the sodium content of Fast Food items.  They recommend only 2000 mg of sodium a day, but I find that almost an impossible goal as it is so restrictive. But pay more attention to the sodium in the foods you eat. 

So, if you want to live a longer, healthier life, choose more of the “good” foods that promote health and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Eat better during March, National Nutrition Month

February was heart health month and March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign led by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Their theme this year is, “Put Your Best Fork Forward” meaning that each bite of food counts and even small changes in your diet can have big health benefits.  The overall theme of this nutrition/health blog has been small changes for a healthier you.  Recently, students in the nutrition class I teach wrote down everything they ate for 24 hours.  One student ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast.  I noted if they made just one change, switching to a General Mills cereal such as Cheerios or choosing oatmeal for breakfast, would be a huge change in their diet. Why?  By just switching to a healthier cereal, they would add a serving of whole grains, more fiber, and more nutrients to their day.  The student went to the grocery store, bought a new cereal, took a picture of the box and showed me the picture at the next class. They asked me if this new cereal was a nutritious choice, and it was not only a healthy choice but a cereal I also eat.

So, what simple nutrition changes does the Academy recommend for National Nutrition Month, 2017?  A summary of their changes:
1.       Choose healthy food – like the students in my class, switching cereals can be an easy way to eat healthier.  Choosing real juice instead of Sunny D can be a way to eat healthier.  Choosing a General Mills cereal instead of Pop Tarts for your kids is a way to eat healthier. 

2.       Go to MyPlate and see what foods you should be eating.  How many servings of fruits and vegetables, how many servings of grains.  Unfortunately, MyPlate is not as easy to navigate as it used to be so here is the link to get to the page you need to get YOUR diet recommendations: MyPlate Daily Checklist.   Enter your age, gender, weight, height and your physical activity level and MyPlate will give you a Food Plan recommended for you. 

3.       Be physically active every day – so many people promise themselves, “I will go to the gym to work out 5 times this week,” and then never go at all.  Find 1-2 classes at the gym you can fit in your schedule, after work, during lunch, Saturday morning and make them part of your return.  No time for the gym, then walk every day.  Being active on weekends doesn’t have to mean going to the gym but mowing the lawn, washing a car, cleaning your home.  Less sitting and more moving is the goal. 

4.       Ask a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for nutrition advice.   Reading this blog is one way to “consult” a nutritionist as I am a Registered Dietitian.  Go to the Academy’s website at and read the many articles on nutrition they provide free of charge. If you are a teacher or a parent, has nutrition games kids can play to learn more about nutrition at:  National Nutrition Month Games

So in March, how can you eat healthier?  Bring a piece of fresh fruit with you to work every day.  Eat a whole grain cereal for breakfast. General Mills makes it easy as all their cereals are whole grain.  Go to MyPlate Daily Checklist and get your individualized food plan.  If you are a mom or dad, enter information for each of your kids to find out what healthy foods they should be eating every day.  Ask a friend to join you for a walk before or after work every day.

Sources:  Academy, MyPlate Daily Checklist, National Nutrition Month Games